TAPPED

Jon Huntsman Death Watch

Despite media enthusiasm for his candidacy, Jon Huntsman has never been a serious contender for the Republican presidential nomination. His political positions are too moderate, his persona is too conciliatory, and his service in the Obama administration makes him anathema to most of the Repubican base. To wit, the former Utah governor has never polled above 5 percent among GOP primary voters. With in mind, it wouldn’t be wrong or even premature to read this campaign change as the beginning of the end for Huntsman 2012: Former Utah governor Jon Huntsman’s (R) presidential campaign manager, Susie Wiles, is resigning and will be replaced by communications director Matt David, according to the campaign. Huntsman is announcing the changes to his staff at a meeting this afternoon. Obviously, a lot can change between now and the Republican primaries; at this point in 2007, John McCain had lost his campaign manager, chief strategist, and communications director, along with dozens of others...

Today at the Prospect

Jamelle Bouie explains why Obama is going to win in 2012. Patrick Caldwell argues that space exploration has value beyond just getting to Mars. Robert Kuttner writes that the debt crisis in Europe is reaching the point of no return. Paul Waldman celebrates Marshall McLuhan's 100th birthday by explaining how his work is relevant to modern media.

Winning the Battle but Losing the War

When 62 percent percent of Americans agree that the Republican Party should compromise on budget negotiations, it’s obvious that President Obama is winning the politics of the debt-ceiling negotiations. On the other hand, when 47 percent of Americans say that spending cuts will create jobs – as they did in the most recent Washington Post /ABC News survey – it’s clear that Obama is losing the larger ideological battle over the role of government. In fact, since March, 6 percent more respondents say that cuts to federal spending would do more to create jobs than cut them. Worse, this result is consistent with other polls; according to the most recent Gallup survey on deficit reduction, 50 percent of Americans would prefer to reduce the deficit with spending cuts, compared to the 32 percent who would like to see an equal mix, and the 11 percent who would prefer deficit reduction with tax increases. In a sense, we’re watching history repeat itself. Like his predecessor Bill Clinton,...

Happy Birthday, Marshall McLuhan

In my column today, I note that today would be Marshall McLuhan's 100th birthday. I found this fantastic clip from a 1960s Canadian Broadcasting Company program, in which a couple of guys right out of Mad Men (including one wearing a tie so skinny it must have been constructed by miniaturization engineers at the University of Toronto) talk about the transition from the "age of the book" to our current, hyper-mediated age, then interview McLuhan. It has a remarkably high-minded tone, one you'd have trouble finding on television today: And, on a lighter note, here's the classic clip of McLuhan's appearance in "Annie Hall." As Woody Allen says, "Boy, if life were only like this."

Double Twitter

I once joked that the logical extension of Twitter was a service called Blurter, where all posts were limited to one character. Sure, you could see what someone has to say via their Twitter feed, but wouldn't it be quicker to get Lady Gaga's message, "U"? Both concise and intriguing. Now, Farhad Manjoo suggests something radical: What if Twitter doubled their character limit? The 140-character limit came from the pre-smartphone era, when the service's creators thought people would all be using it by sending SMS messages, which were limited to 160 characters. But that's no longer true: Although I expect blistering attacks from Twitter fans, I suspect that if Twitter did expand the character limit, people would quickly become acolytes. More and more, I see people resorting to hacks to get around Twitter's limit—they split their tweets up into multivolume epics, they use services like TwitLonger to add heft, or they direct people to posts on Facebook, Quora, and now Google+. Expanding...

The Wonders of Local Government

One of the things we often hear is that government is best when it's closest to the people. Your local city government is going to be more responsive than your state government, which in return will be more responsive than the feds in Washington. This may be true in some ways, but it's also true that state and local government can be more corrupt and more dysfunctional, in part because there's less scrutiny. And also, on a local level, it's often not hard to get elected, which means your elected officials can be flat-out nuts : Be careful before starting a Boy Scout troop in Gould, Ark. Or a Harry Potter fan club. Or a baseball team. The City Council adopted an ordinance last week making it illegal to form any kind of group without its permission. That is a clear violation of the Constitution, legal scholars agree. But it is also a sign of just how nasty politics has gotten in Gould, a farming town of 1,100 some 70 miles southeast of Little Rock, where members of the Council have...

What About House Republicans?

After months of negotiations, a bipartisan group of senators known as the “Gang of Six” has released its plan for long-term debt reduction. The proposal is in line with previous recommendations from the Simpson-Bowles Commission. It includes $500 billion in discretionary spending cuts, cuts to Medicare (which can include an increase in the eligibility age) and unspecified Social Security reform. It also contains revenue increases, broad-based tax reform, and discretionary spending caps with a trigger that will kick in by 2015 if deficit reduction isn’t on track. The plan assumes that the Bush tax cuts for higher-income earners will expire. On the whole, it saves $3.7 trillion, which is close to the $4 trillion the administration's “grand bargain” of two weeks ago would have saved. Given their reaction to Simpson-Bowles earlier this year, liberals won’t love the proposal, but it’s not the worst possible outcome. President Obama called the Gang of Six proposal “broadly consistent” with...

Courage on the Campaign Trail

While I hesitate to complain about standard-issue candidate hyperbole, I just can't help myself on this one. Here's Michele Bachmann 's latest Iowa campaign ad: "I have the will and I have the courage to see this through." And by "see this through," she means, "vote against whatever debt ceiling deal the people in Congress who do the actual work come up with." Here's the thing about courage: It actually requires you to put something at risk. Courage implies danger. A politician can be courageous when she, for instance, takes a stand on principle that she knows will increase the chances she'll be voted out of office. The only danger here is to the American economy, not to Michele Bachmann's fortunes. What would be courageous is for her to support increasing the debt ceiling, since that would get her supporters mad. But for some reason, we expect candidates to embody every admirable human virtue. The campaign narrative a candidate weaves almost inevitably shows them as having been...

Free the JSTOR Four Million!

The news that Aaron Swartz, a technologist and activist involved in the early days of Reddit and the Progressive Change Campaign Committee, has been indicted in Boston for allegedly breaking into an MIT wiring closet and downloading in excess of four million academic journal articles from JSTOR while a student at, wait for it, Harvard's Center for Ethics, brings to mind a profile of information activist Carl Malamud that ran in TAP just about a year ago: Malamud is certainly willing to provoke but prefers to be sure the law is on his side. In response to his call to open [the federal court record archive] PACER, a young activist, entrepreneur, and programmer named Aaron Swartz used a bit of code and a trial program at his local library to download nearly 20 million pages of files, which caught the attention of the FBI. Malamud ended up in an interrogation room with two armed agents. “Unlike my good friend Aaron Swartz and others who are willing to stick it to the man,” Malamud says, “...

There's More to Poverty Than Just Money

As Washington fights about which benefits to cut for low-income families, the Heritage Foundation throws an assist by arguing – in typical conservative fashion – that poor people can’t be poor if they own consumer electronics and air conditioning: [I]f poverty means lacking nutritious food, adequate warm housing, and clothing for a family, relatively few of the more than 30 million people identified as being “in poverty” by the Census Bureau could be characterized as poor.[2] While material hardship definitely exists in the United States, it is restricted in scope and severity. The average poor person, as defined by the government, has a living standard far higher than the public imagines. […] In 2005, the typical household defined as poor by the government had a car and air conditioning. For entertainment, the household had two color televisions, cable or satellite TV, a DVD player, and a VCR. If there were children, especially boys, in the home, the family had a game system, such as...

Rules and Norms on Capitol Hill

Jonathan Bernstein assesses GOP strategy, with a great baseball story: The GOP practice, for the last twenty years or so, has been to play the "game" of politics in part by looking through the rule book for strategies that go beyond the norms of politics but are allowed under the literal reading of the rules. Examples include mid-decade redistricting, the recall of a California governor for no particular reason, and impeaching Bill Clinton. And, most notably, filibusters in the Senate as a routine measure. The idea is that in a normal, healthy, political system there's always going to be some gap between the written Constitutional and statutory rules on the one hand, and norms and practices on the other. A clever political party can gain occasional short-term advantages through exploiting that difference. Hmmm...19th century baseball: I seem to recall a story that someone (perhaps King Kelly?) was sitting on the bench when a pop foul came near him. Springing into action, he announced...

Today at the Prospect

Paul Starr explains the twisted psychology behind the Balanced Budget Amendment. Gabriel Arana asks why it took an undercover investigation to bring to light Bachmann's anti-gay views. Anna Clark looks to the future of American women's soccer after the World Cup.

The List of Supporters for Ignoring the Debt Ceiling Grows

Bill Clinton offered his take Tuesday for how he would solve the debt ceiling: Oder the Treasury to keep issuing debt under the 14th Amendment, which states: "The validity of the public debt of the United States, authorized by law, including debts incurred for payment of pensions and bounties for services in suppressing insurrection or rebellion, shall not be questioned." Some have interpreted this Civil War-era language to mean the debt ceiling is unconstitutional, and that it is within Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner's power to continue issuing debt to cover the funds Congress has already appropriated. President Obama has dismissed the idea so far. Clinton, however, thinks it is clearly within constitutional bounds and said he would evoke the 14th Amendment justification “without hesitation, and force the courts to stop me.” That pronouncement comes on the heels of a suggestion from Moody's -- who has threatened to downgrade the U.S.'s triple-A status if no deal is struck by...

Liberals for Hedge-Fund Manager Rights

Feeling like you haven't been disappointed by a Democrat in too long? Well let me help you with that. One of the suggestions that has been floated as part of a deal to reduce the deficit is the elimination of the "carried interest" loophole. It works like this: If you're a hedge-fund manager, you make your money by taking 20 percent of the profits of the fund you manage. This can be a lot of money -- hedge-fund king John Paulson made over $5 billion last year. But unlike the little people, hedge-fund managers don't pay federal income taxes on that income. It's considered "carried interest" and taxed as capital gains, which means Paulson would pay only a 15 percent marginal rate on his income. That's why, as Warren Buffett is fond of pointing out, he pays a lower tax rate than his secretary. And the other day, we learn from Ben Smith , two Democrats in the House -- Jared Polis and Mike Quigley -- sent a letter to President Obama begging him not to close the carried-interest loophole. "...

New Polls on Debt Ceiling Show Ground Shifting

The basic structure of the debt-ceiling debate has always been advantageous for Republicans. It's abstract, which is good for them (they win when debates about government are abstract, but lose when they're specific -- "cutting spending" is popular, "cutting Medicare" is not). It features gridlock and bickering, which seems to validate all their complaints about government; as the party of government, Democrats end up being punished even for Republican failures and obstruction. That enables Republicans to throw sand in the gears, then say, "See, we told you -- Washington can't get anything done." And from the outset, President Obama accepted the Republican position that cutting the deficit is an urgent priority, more urgent than creating jobs, and that the main way to do it is by slashing spending. But some new polls out today suggest that public opinion may be moving a bit more in Democrats' favor. First there's a CBS poll showing that support for increasing the ceiling has almost...

Pages